Have you ever had that friend who you thought was the ultimate version of what a theatre artist should be? That person who was above and beyond all dedicated to their craft and successful as well. They were the person who had the talent and drive and you could say to yourself "it's ok if I don't make it, because I know that they will."
What happens when that person leaves the theatre?
It's something we all have to face throughout our lives no matter what you choose to purse. In theatre, however, there is a added level of sensitivity to this thought and there are several different ways of thinking of it: retiring (often before the age of 30), moving on, settling down, pursing a normal life, and quitting.
It is the word "quitting" that we are all afraid of. It implies that you weren't strong enough or that you couldn't make it to where you wanted to go - that you were cut short along the way. But the lives we choose as actors aren't easy ones. Stability and financial security are denied in a conscience decision by yourself. I had a friend who told me as I graduated from college that it is possible to enjoy a six figure salary and an assured lifestyle in the arts. I'm glad that he had already found success on that level, but while it is possible, it's not probable.
And for those of us who retire early, there is nothing lost and nothing shameful. We may not have achieved everything that we wanted, but we spent our time aspiring to a higher goal. While, yes, we were pursuing personal fame and glory, there is something higher than that. You are serving the play and story you choose to tell; serving something bigger than yourself. You touched many people whether it be on the stages of Broadway, in your local Regional theatre, or in the storefronts of Chicago. You learn a sense of community and to think about the good of the greater community. This work means something and you take that with you into the rest of your life.
So thank you to all those who have gone before. Those who have walked with us and supported us along our journey together. And while you are no longer performing side-by-side with us on the boards of the theatre, we know that you are watching from the audience now and cheering us on as loudly as you did before.
Happy Birthday: Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965)